I was privileged yesterday to be part of a visit by five Polish teachers who were coming to Britain to see how our education system works.
We arranged two visits for them. In the morning they were going around a school that I work a lot with in a socially deprived area of the town I work in.
The school has worked very hard in the last year to focus on learning for the children. Last year I suggested that they look at the problems that some of their children have with having the right “emotional attitude” to learning.
The Polish visitors were able to see that in every class the children were calm and focussed on work. They commented on the way that the children worked so well in groups.
I did not accompany them around as I knew the school so well but instead took myself off to the Year 6 (grade 5) area to offer my services for extra help with mathematics for a group of children that I have been working with. I was told that they were deeply immersed in a project that they were setting up and that I would not be needed!
I then went to the ICT suite so tat I could access my work e-mails and was joined later by Year 6 students who were working (on their own initiative and without adult support) on writing a fictional autobiography in the form of a letter to their teacher explaining their life in the next 25 years! The children discussed what the world was like now and how there would be many changes in the years ahead. One of the children discussed computers, he told me that he liked to take computers apart and then rebuild them. He then stated that he had fitted a new mother board the day before.
The Polish visitors saw the whole school at work from the youngest children who are still four years of age and were exploring numbers in their environment to the oldest children wo were tackling arithmetical sequences.
After a wonderful lunch where the visitors were given numerous gifts, we made our way across town to a large Catholic Primary school. The visitors were shown an “Activity Afternoon” where the children were outside on their school field playing tag rugby, learning archery and inside their school learning French, sewing, cookery and participating in drama. We saw younger children listening and acting out parts of a storybook and then finished the afternoon being sung to by a wonderfully talented choir.
At tea at the end of the school day the visitors were given the inevitable gifts from the school. Their spokesperson stood up and thanked everyone for the gifts but said that the greatest gift that the teachers had got from the day was seeing so many children happy, engaged and enjoying their learning and working so well together in a calm and relaxed way.
When I got home I went to look at my Tweets and what was happening on Facebook as I usually do. I saw concerns about the public perception of teachers and education and the negative press that we are receiving at the moment about our profession.
It made me think that we do not shout enough about the many wonderful things that happen daily in our schools. We look at the so-called underachieving children and the schools where the buildings are falling apart. The press did not turn up in the morning to witness the wonderful things happening in the school we visited and it was only because we had a Town Councillor with us who had a contact with the local newspaper that we managed to get a photographer to come down to take a photograph of the Polish teachers visiting their second school in the afternoon.
But I imagine the press would have rushed down to the school had there been an incident with an irate parent which involved the Police having to be called!
So the point of this blog post is that we do not tell people enough about the positive and wonderful things that we do in schools every day. We need to bang our own drum and get people who support us (and there are many who do believe it or not!) to stand up on our behalf.
On Tuesday’s #edchat on Twitter we discussed the prospect of making our own rejoinder to “Waiting For Superman”. I was very excited by the prospect. I think that we can certainly tell a different story in our documentary and maybe the public might get to see a different point of view for once.. teachers are every day doing wonderful things with their wonderful children and they deserve public support not scorn.